Behind the design: meet illustrator Rachel Corcoran.

We don’t know about you but our Google searches for Christmas crafts have skyrocketed this year, which might have a little to do with all the time on our hands. Proving homemade is where the heart is this festive season, meet Rachel Corcoran, the Irish illustrator who helped us bring Christmas to life with her "whimsical, nostalgic and intricate" designs.

Missoma: your festive illustrations got us all in the mood – where did you start?

Rachel Corcoran: I love Christmas, so it was easy for me to tap into my festive inspirations and loves. With each scene, I wanted to capture a space that you’d want to walk into – an escape to a magical, snowy world. So first and foremost (after the sketching process) I chose the colour palette of rich reds, burgundies, deep blues, golden ochres and woodland greens. All these colours are associated with Christmas and help to set the theme.

M: How did you get into illustration professionally?

R: I took a more roundabout direction to getting where I am today. After studying graphic design, I found myself working with various short-term graphic design jobs and apprenticeships. I’ve always loved books and illustrations but I never thought I could work in that industry.

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By chance I started illustrating children’s book covers for one Irish publisher, and from there I received more and more commissions from existing and new clients. It wasn’t an easy journey as there were a lot of mistakes and doubts along the way, but I finally found my calling.

M: Where are you when you get your ideas?

R: Usually in bed! I have an overactive imagination and it really kicks off when I’m trying to sleep late at night. I find my brain creatively wakes up after 10pm. I always keep a notepad beside my bed, or write in my phone ideas that come to me late at night. I never remember them in the morning so it’s imperative I write them down while half asleep.

Creativity is a form of self-expression; a need, a want, and a motivation.

– Rachel Corcoran, Illustrator 

M: Where are you when you get your ideas?

R: Usually in bed! I have an overactive imagination and it really kicks off when I’m trying to sleep late at night. I find my brain creatively wakes up after 10pm. I always keep a notepad beside my bed, or write in my phone ideas that come to me late at night. I never remember them in the morning so it’s imperative I write them down while half asleep.

Creativity is a form of self-expression; a need, a want, and a motivation.

– Rachel Corcoran, Illustrator 

M: Do you ever get creative ‘blocks’? If so, how do you find your way out of them?

R: Oh yes, especially when I’m really overwhelmed with projects, I find it difficult to tap into new ideas because my mind is too exhausted. I think it’s so important to rest. It’s not natural to churn out amazing ideas like a conveyer belt – we’re only human after all.

M: Describe your creative process.

R: I’m not really a sketchbook person. I tend to work on small sheets of paper that I keep lying around my studio, and I’ll sketch out thumbnail ideas very roughly so I can visually grasp the idea that’s in my head. I’ll then start sketching more on my iPad and explore different ideas and compositions.

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These sketches are very rough and I would never want anyone to see them! I work digitally, however, I use traditional techniques – such as how I shade and add texture with pencil and paint – that I’m used to from my days working as a traditional artist.

M: What gives you the festive feeling?

R: The weather certainly helps! I love the colder days and the Winter sunsets – there’s something quite magical about them. Combined with big scarves, cosy socks, and big mugs of hot chocolate, it really starts to feel quite festive.

Rachel’s festive picks.

As well as an alpaca wool blanket by Mcnutt of Donegal and must-reads from Dubray Books, here’s what she’s gifting others (and herself) this season.

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